The Knicks' defense is and has been quite bad since mid-November, but earlier in the season, New York overcame that by blowing teams out of the water offensively. That's not the case anymore. Why? What changed? Chris Herring published a strong piece last night about the Knicks' rough 2013 and their apparent unwillingness to adapt.
Herring compared February's stats to December's (skipping over January, presumably because Raymond Felton missed almost the whole thing) and found the following:
According to Synergy Sports, the Knicks have run the pick-and-roll play, which tends to induce fluid ball movement, just 24% of the time in February, down from 28% in December. Additionally, they've created fewer isolation plays for Anthony, who's gone one-on-one just 21% of the time, a steep drop from 35% in December.
As a result, players are taking tougher shots. This month alone, 24.2% of the Knicks' attempts have come from 16 to 23 feet, up from just 19.4% prior.
So, in practice: A little less pick-and-roll, much less isolation for Melo (I don't know what to make of that), and a lot more of those despicable long twos.
I, too, have been staring down the Knicks' stats through bleary, teary eyes. Here's what I've noticed this morning, primed by that graph of Jason Kidd's shooting I linked to last night: On top of any change in approach, there's a drop-off in execution. Namely, the Knicks love to shoot threes-- they're shooting more so far in February (30.8 three-point attempts per game, though that's skewed by the 43 attempts against the Kings) than in any previous month-- but they are no longer hitting them. Who's not hitting them, though? Is it a team-wide thing? Here are the monthly splits in three-point shooting percentage for the five Knicks with over 100 three-point attempts this season (Felton's January is excluded because he played just three games):
||Feb. (8 games)
God damn, November was great. The pick-and-roll hummed along on a spread floor and Melo punished double teams by feeding his three-point shooters. Now, not so much, particularly for the first unit. To add to the above numbers for Felton, Kidd, and Melo, Iman Shumpert's hit 31 percent of his threes in February after hitting 41 percent in January (and after Ronnie Brewer hit 41 percent in Shump's spot back in sweet, sweet November). Teams can crowd the paint to cut off Melo's drives and swarm Tyson Chandler's rim-rolls without getting punished by the three-point shooters they leave open. It feels to me like each game starts with shooters missing open looks, then devolves into Melo et al. flinging themselves into traffic because their bail-out passes aren't bearing fruit. Probably related: 88 percent of New York's three-pointers were assisted in November. Since the New Year, that number's just under 80 percent.
I've seen a lot of comments requesting a starting lineup change, and that's hard to argue at the moment. Alan Hahn focused on lineups this morning and pointed out that the current starting lineup hasn't been able to break even, while lineups swapping in J.R. Smith have been decent. Paul Chillsap already made a pretty good argument for J.R. joining that group. I don't know what the answer is, but I feel certain that New York's first unit offense will continue to falter if folks can't hit open threes. Three-point shooting was the keystone of the brilliant early-season offense-- the mere threat of it allowed everything else to operate-- and things have kinda gone to shit as the accuracy has dwindled. If that means replacing cold shooters with hot shooters, so be it. If it means having Dave Hopla hypnotize cold shooters into heating up again, that's fine, too. There just has to be shooting out there. Either that or the Knicks have to start playing defense, which...YUCK, that's no fun at all.
In related news, Mike Woodson's not sure whether he wants to change his starting lineup tonight. We shall see.